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How to Raise a Calf for the First Time

If you want to raise calves, research as much information as possible about them and the proper way to keep them healthy and comfortable before you start.

Let’s look at what you must do and what you can expect if you want to learn how to raise a calf.

1. Decide which breed of calf you want to raise

To decide which breed of calf you should get, you first need to consider why you want to raise calves. Do you want to start a dairy farm or to be able to sell freezer beef?

Or perhaps you live on land with plenty of space and want to raise calves as pets.

Do some research to make sure the breed you choose to raise meets your expectations and your needs. Of course, buying a breed of calves that already live in your area is always a good idea. Check with local farms if you are unsure.

2. Prepare your calves’ habitat

Before buying calves and bringing them home, you need to prepare their future home. Ideally, you should have a barn where your calves can shelter from the elements.

Your barn should have calf pens to keep your calves safe and comfortable.

You also need a large fenced pasture for each calf to roam free. Remember that your calves will not stay small forever and need plenty of space to roam free when grown.

3. Think about the food and water they will need

Be sure you get all the food and water your calves need before you bring them home. If you buy bottle-raised calves, you must feed them a formula specially formulated for them. You can’t just get milk from the grocery store.

Eventually, your calves will need to be fed grain and hay. You should know that dairy calves need to be fed more grain but that beef calves need more hay. Don’t get hay that only consists of grass; your calves won’t get all the nutrients and protein they need to grow.

You will also need a water tank to ensure your calves always have plenty of water.

4. Purchase calves and bring them to their new home

Depending on the breed you choose, calves can be very expensive, so be sure you have saved enough money to buy them when ready.

You should be able to find calves for sale at a local farm, which would be ideal because you wouldn’t need to travel too far. If this is your first time raising calves, you should consider getting no more than one or two of them. You should also remember that older calves are easier to raise than young ones who must be bottle-fed.

However, older calves might need to be carried in a stock trailer, while a bottle calf should fit inside your car.

5. Keep them in their pens for the first weeks

When your calves arrive in their new home, keep them in their calf pens for the first few weeks. This will keep them safe and give them the time to adjust to their new home and routine.

Eventually, you will be able to let them roam in their pasture.

6. Feed your calves properly

Bottle calves must be fed a milk replacer formula twice daily until they are old enough to feed on grain and hay.

When they finish eating one, weaned calves should be given a new hay bale. And when you feed them grain, you should not give them more than 3 to 5 pounds per feeding.

7. Get the necessary vaccinations and monitor their health

Your calves might need to get vaccinated to help protect them from different diseases. Talk to a veterinarian to ensure they get the vaccinations as soon as possible.

You will need to keep an eye on your calves. If they display any unusual behaviour, it could be a sign they are sick and need some attention from their veterinarian.

You also might have to look into dehorning and castrating your calves.

8. Keep your calves’ home clean

Cleaning the barn is not the most exciting part of raising calves, but it has to be done. Get rid of old and dirty bedding, and put out new bedding regularly so your calves can have a clean and hygienic home.

Washing the calves is unnecessary, although it can be a good idea if they get dirty.

9. Make sure the calves know you are in charge

Finally, remember that although calves are adorable and innocent, you should not tolerate all their mischief. Some behaviours are unacceptable and could even be dangerous as the calves grow older and larger.

Ensure they know you are in charge and will reprimand them if they do something bad.

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